The Andhra Pradesh government wants to take over the Sakshi media group, but can they really do it?

YSRCP bloodbath in Andhra After grabbing MLAs TDP goes after Jagans Sakshi mediaImage By arrangement
news Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - 09:32

Things are not going too well for Jagan Mohan Reddy, the self-appointed heir of the political legacy of former Andhra Pradesh CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Facing defeat in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the assembly polls in 2014, Jagan’s political fortunes have dwindled ever since, with the corruption case against him still keeping him on his toes.

Now, the Andhra Pradesh government ruled by Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP is threatening to take over the Sakshi media group – mainly the newspaper and TV channel run under the Sakshi brand.

In an interview to Mint, the finance minister of Andhra Pradesh Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said that the Andhra Pradesh government plans to enforce a recently passed legislation, Andhra Pradesh Special Courts Act 2015, to take management control of Sakshi media group. The act was framed to recover ill-gotten assets of public servants.

The move is being seen by the YSRCP as a part of a larger conspiracy of the TDP to demoralize YSRCP party cadre and eventually dissolve the party.

For several months now, both the TRS in Telangana and TDP in Andhra Pradesh have been cannibalizing the YSRCP. In Telangana, 3 MLAs and 1 MP from YSRCP have deserted Jagan to join the TRS. In Andhra Pradesh, 13 YSRCP MLAs have joined the TDP so far. All the while, Jagan has been complaining that his MLAs are being “purchased” by the TDP.

Members of the YSRCP and Sakshi media group however, say that the government cannot actually take over the group and they are just trying to create panic within the party.

There have also been reports that Sakshi TV has been illegally blocked across Andhra Pradesh.

“Our channel has been blocked for the past four days in AP, and this was done soon after we broadcasted Kapu Leader and ex-minister Mudragada Padmanabham’s protest for Kapu reservation. It is undemocratic to block any news channel or newspaper, and we are definitely going to legal take action against it,” says K Ramachandra Murthy, Editorial Director of Sakshi group.

Chandra Mohan Reddy Somireddy, TDP MLC and Polit Bureau Member however says that no such action has been taken by the government. “I myself had watched Sakshi TV in Vijayawada, how is that possible that Andhra Pradesh government has blocked Sakshi TV?”

He does agree that the state plans to take over the Sakshi media group. “Yes, the government of AP has enacted a law to stop the process of collecting money through illegal means. Jagan Mohan Reddy has allegedly made investments into his companies when his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the chief minister of the state between 2004 and 2009. Taking over Sakshi is not for the benefit of the TDP but to protect the interests of the state and for the development of the state and people of Andhra Pradesh.”

K Ramachandra Murthy however says that TDP is wrong, and the government cannot control Sakshi.

“They cannot take-over, they are simply saying this. Firstly, Sakshi is already under investigation by the CBI and ED and all the properties have been attached by them. The state has no jurisdiction here, they cannot touch us,” says Murthy.

“Secondly, the Act was enacted to hold public servants accountable, and no one from the Sakshi board was a public servant at that time,” adds Murthy.

Ramakrishna Reddy, political secretary of YSRCP and former CEO of Sakshi adds one more reason, “This act cannot be applied retrospectively.”

So if the government cannot control Sakshi, then why are they saying it?

“They want to create panic. It is a part of their larger strategy to dissolve YSRCP. They want to demoralize the party cadres,” says Reddy.

Political observers too agree that TDP is crossing the line in going after Sakshi

“It is totally undemocratic and unjustified by the government. Whatever business rivalry they have, it should not come in between channels and media houses. These are unofficial bans which the government should not do (sic),” says political analyst Telakapalli Ravi.

However, he does not think taking over Sakshi will affect press freedom in the state.

“According to me, the media house has been built with illegal money. At the time of his father’s rule, Jagan also tried to control Eenadu, ABN and other media houses. He also tried to dismantle RFC (Ramoji Film City), so how can it affect the independence of press? They cannot call it a media house after investing illegal money in it,” he says.

Murthy disagrees. “We are the only media group which is voicing the concerns of the opposition. All other major media groups are blatantly supporting CM Naidu. If we are not there, then who will raise the issues of the people? Without Sakshi, there will be no one to fight this government,” he says.

The larger question however is over the political future of Jagan Mohan Reddy? Is his political climax round the corner?

Ravi does seem to think so. “He has no future in politics with so many corruption cases on him. He was in jail for 16 months. Even after his jail term, he came back to politics using his father’s name. I cannot see any future of Jagan Mohan Reddy in politics.”

But the YSRCP is putting up a strong face.

“They can take our MLAs, and the media group. But they cannot take away the people from us. The people are with us,” says Reddy. 

 

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